Full Text



Project for 2211 Harold Way
on LPC Thursday Agenda
Ignores Climate Change, Housing Needs

Charlene M. Woodcock
Tuesday December 03, 2019 - 09:59:00 AM

An open letter to Berkeley Councilmembers

The elected and appointed city of Berkeley officials and staff need to confront the fact that Berkeley is far from meeting either our 2020 greenhouse gas reduction goals or our urgent need for affordable housing for Berkeley residents being pushed out by rising rents caused by the many new market-rate units and inflated property values.

It seems clear that we all need to think much harder about the consequences of our actions as climate disruption becomes an immediate reality. Building construction and demolition are both significant contributors to the climate crisis, so great care should be taken to approve only those new construction projects that will serve our needs and meet the most rigorous energy efficiency standards. There is no excuse for approving buildings that fail to meet these needs and especially a project that would demolish a significant cultural resource that is part of a landmarked block.

The 2211 Harold Way development project to demolish and replace the beautifully repurposed Shattuck Cinemas, the economic engine that brings hundreds of thousands of people downtown every year, with a large market-rate residential highrise is not acceptable. If this project met the LEED Platinum energy efficiency standard and provided at least 50% below-median-income housing, it would matter less that it would be greatly out of scale with the historic core of our city. It would tower over the adjacent buildings—our beautiful one hundred-year-old neo-classical Post Office, our Public Library, the YMCA building, the Walter Ratcliff-designed Armstrong College and Elks Club buildings. But if it served our needs, its intrusion into the historic building context would be tolerable.

However, the 2211 Harold Way project has no such intentions. The developer would pay an absurdly discounted in-lieu fee, thanks to former Mayor Bates, rather than provide any low-income units. And it would barely meet the obsolete LEED gold standard—this less than a month from 2020 when the state will be requiring zero net energy of new residential buildings, as Berkeley should have done years ago.

The Shattuck Cinemas provide Berkeleyans and visitors from other East Bay communities with the good movies, both popular and independent and foreign films, that we prize. The outcry from more than 5,000 petition signers of the 300,000 plus annual patrons of the Shattuck Cinemas forced the developer to include theaters in his plan, but if actually built they would be fewer and less commodious than the existing theaters. And he calls this his Significant Community Benefit—a lesser version of the resource he wishes to demolish. The thousands of people who come downtown to see films at the Cinemas will be deprived of this cultural and entertainment resource for the years of construction. What mitigation has been required to address this cultural loss? Even if theater space is included in the project, we will lose the Shattuck Cinemas for years and probably forever, as was the case with the Fine Arts building development. The people who come to the Shattuck Cinemas also patronize the downtown restaurants. With no Shattuck Cinemas, the city will lose much of that business as well. Because a previous city council was willing to sacrifice the theaters and other local businesses for a speculative market-rate residential development should not prevent the current city council, ZAB, and LPC from requiring this project to meet our needs instead of serving the interest of the investors who are finally funding it.

I hope you will take your responsibilities to current Berkeley residents and future generations seriously as you consider whether to allow this destructive, needless project. You can and should require the developer to meet the 2020 Zero Net Energy rule and commit half the units to below median income residents. The city has the legal right to change zoning and other requirements for a project until the building permit is granted. The project that would come from such requirements would much better serve our needs. And if the developer isn’t interested in serving our needs, he should not be granted permission to build in our downtown. 

Gene Bernardi Presente!
December 25, 1928 to November 16, 2019

Jane Welford
Sunday December 01, 2019 - 10:58:00 AM

Gene was born on Christmas Day in 1928 in Berkeley. Her father, Theodore Bernardi was a well known local architect largely responsible for the design of Stern Hall. Gene's mother died early and her father remarried to Beatrice Boot.

Gene's loving and fighting spirit goes back a long way. She went to school all the way up through UC Berkeley where she graduated in 1951 with a B.A. in Psychology and then a Masters Degree in Sociology in 1964.

From 1964 to 1967 Gene worked as a research associate with the City of Oakland, researching anti-poverty programs.

She then was hired by the U.S. Forest Service in 1968 as a research sociologist for the Pacific Southwest Forest and Range Experiment Station in Berkeley which specialized in fire prevention. She worked there until 1975.

Gene filed a class action lawsuit in 1973 against sex discrimination for all women in the Department of Agriculture under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which was resolved in 1979 when the Forest Service agreed to a consent decree, approved by the district court in 1981 which gave Gene compensation and a raise in classification. 

She held the titles of Federal Women's Program Coordinator and Equal Employment Opportunity Counselor. There was a lot of fight back against letting women into the Forest Service as equals. 

All of this information can be found online in Forest History Society in Durham, North Carolina. Foresthistory.org 

After leaving the Forest Service in 1976 Gene worked as a Social and Economic Committee consultant to the State Social Welfare Board. 

In 1982 the National Tritium Labeling Facility (NTLF) was built in Strawberry Canyon in Berkeley. 


During the next three years Gene was working very hard to finalize the adoption of her son, Martin. He was finally allowed to join Gene in Berkeley in 1985. He was 8 years old. 

By the 1990s the public were becoming aware of the NTLF. Two employees of the Lawrence Livermore Lab, Dr. Leticia Menchaca and Ms Susan Monheit tested the ground water, air and eucalyptus and found much higher levels of Tritium than initially believed. They made their information public and in 1996 both women were laid off. 

Being aware of all this, in 1996 Gene worked with the Committee to Minimize Toxic Waste (CMTW) to shut down the two NTLF Tritium stacks which were found to be contaminating the area around the Lawrence Hall of Science where thousands of children come each year. In 1998 the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) performed a Superfund reassessment of LBNL concluding that “Based upon a preliminary Hazard Ranking System score, US EPA has determined that LBNL is eligible for the National SuperFund Priorities List” for cleanup due to tritium in air, soil, groundwater, and surface water. In 2001 the facility was shut down. (cmtwberkeley.org

In 2003 Library workers in Berkeley were beginning to feel intimidated for speaking out about the installation of 3M Radio Frequency Identification Devices (RFID) for an automatic check-out system like those used at Home Depot. Concerns were about health, privacy and the replacement of workers at the library with machines. They were beginning to reach out into the community for support. Gene helped to start Berkeleyans Organizing for Library Defense (BOLD). BOLD attended many Board of Library Trustees meetings and spoke up about the privacy and health concerns of the RFID tags as well as the cost of the tags and the disposing of thousands of books into locked dumpsters with no record of what had been thrown out. 

That struggle went on for years and was finally lost except for the fact that 3M which couldn't sign an agreement about nuclear participation was dumped in favor of a Canadian outfit. 

In 2004 Gene went to D.C. To The Million Worker March. 

In 2006 BOLD morphed into SuperBOLD (Berkeleyans Organizing for Liberty Defense). 

The work in BOLD led to the realization that the problems with public comment procedures and the unfair practices of the Board of Library Trustees were also problems with the City Council. The City Council was urged to open up public comment and not have people wanting to speak on non-agenda items be made to wait until the very end of the meeting which was sometimes after midnight. SuperBOLD threatened a law suit finally to get the Council to follow The Brown Act which resulted in Public Comment improvements at City Council. The organization has remained in existence to the present day. 

In 2008 SuperBOLD received the James Madison Freedom of Information Award in the Citizen Category from the Society of Professional Journalists. 

In 2009 the City of Berkeley honored Gene with Outstanding Woman of Berkeley Award. 

Gene, in her late 80s, had incredible energy and she doted on her Grandsons. She took her Grandsons to Costa Rica and to Paris on two different occasions, and to Venice. She travelled with Diego to Spain, first to Javea and then to Madrid. 

In 2017 Gene joined the Steering Committee of Berkeley Citizen's Action where she promoted her concerns with police accountability and militarization, and the plight of the homeless. 

Gene donated many documents of her work to the Bancroft Library. Https://oac.cdlib.org/search?style=oac4;Institution=UC%20Berkeley::Bancroft%20Library;titlesAZ+G;idT=UCb214519697 

Gene worked very hard to interest people in the ramifications of the City of Berkeley signing agreements with Northern California Regional Intelligence Center (NCRIC) and Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI). UASI is the Federal funding source for Urban Shield and the militarization of our local police. NCRIC is the spying arm that sends information to the huge NSA data center at Camp Williams near Bluffdale, Utah. Our 3 Berkeley Joint Terrorism Task Force Liaison officers within our Berkeley Police Department send their gathered information there. This data center was completed May, 2014 and cost $1.5 billion. Gene's aim has been to have City Council end the agreements with these two Federal programs, and her work and the work of SuperBOLD continues. 

Gene loved to dance and create politically savvy art using papier mache and clay and she loved food. She is sorely missed. 

She is survived by her sister, Joan Breece, her son, Martin Bernardi, and her three grandsons, Theodore, Diego and Dominic, and her nephews Conrad Breece, Theodore Breece and Timothy Breece and all the friends who loved her and all the people with whom she worked. Gene will be sorely missed 



Another Watershed on the Berkeley Horizon

Becky O'Malley
Saturday November 30, 2019 - 09:45:00 PM

UPDATE, 12/7/19: As predicted here, “Berkeley Plaza”, aka 2211 Harold Way, is again in play as we rush toward the putative end of the serial deadline extensions which the City of Berkeley has granted to the project’s financiers as they’ve struggled to amass the requisite capital since the project was granted a use permit in 2015. On the agenda of Berkeley’s Landmark Preservation Commission last Thursday was an item captioned “Final Design Review” but which was described in the staff report as “incomplete”. This relates, somehow, to a requirement in the original conditions of approval that the LPC has to review certain aspects of the design before the building permits are granted.

Full disclosure: I sit on the commission, but that doesn’t mean in any way that I knew what was going on.

The original financial backer, one Joseph Penner, who had put the entitlements up for sale a couple of years ago with no apparent buyers, was in attendance along with his posse, minus Berkeley “expediter” Mark Rhoades, but he didn’t say anything.

Opponents did participate in full voice. Four speakers noted that the latest version of the plans, which some of the commissioners had received, featured a 40% reduction in the promised number of film theaters (from 10 to 6) and also a reduction in the number of units. They therefore concluded that the complex should be returned to the Zoning Adjustment Board as effectively a new project.

My fellow commissioners, possibly all of them as confused as I was, voted unanimously to take no action, except to continue the item to their next meeting, which won’t be until February. Is there any way the project could be green-lighted before then? If anyone thinks they know the answer, I’d love to hear about it. 

Rain, rain, beautiful rain. We’ve finally reached that blessed point, the first rain of the season, when we can stop worrying about wildfires.

And start worrying about floods. Oh well…

We’re all learning the difference between weather and climate, which makes it easier to target our worrying. The key is Shakespeare’s Law: One swallow does not a summer make.And yet even one heavy rain, despite the worrysome evidence that it might be the stalking horse for climate change, at least lets us relax a bit until spring if we live at the interface between city and country. (Though I did see an excellent little book at my insurance agent’s office which pointed out that winter is the time to make changes aimed at increasing your home’s fire resistance before the next dry season.)

Those of us who don’t have homes (defined here as indoor waterproof shelter) have a different set of problems. It is outrageous that California blithely continues expanding pricey shelter for the already housed while neglecting the needs of the unhoused, or even worse claiming that “the free market” will provide them with homes even if God won't.

Good luck with that. Trickle-down still doesn’t. 

We have somehow gotten the idea that it’s super meritorious to build projects with 20% of the units designated as “affordable”, even if that means that the other 80% by definition are unaffordable. That way we’ll never get caught up. 

And what does “affordable” mean anyhow? Weasel-word definitions abound, but what it doesn’t mean is a roof over your head when it’s raining if you’re sleeping out in the cold tonight. 

Boring as it is, land use continues to be the most contested topic among self-styled progressives here and all over the country. More precisely, the contest is the intersection between housing as a market opportunity for surplus capital and housing as a human right. 

Berkeley, for example, is vastly overbuilt in the category of “market rate” (read expensive) housing and vastly under-built in the basic shelter category for truly low-income people. Meanwhile, extravagant lip service is given to the idea that Berkeley is combating climate change by permitting such speculative projects, which use up scarce buildable land in cities yet don’t come close to meeting recognized goals for reduced carbon footprint. Many of these boondoggles have already been build, and many more are now in the pipeline. 

At the same time as cities like Berkeley have thousands of homeless individuals living on the street or in vehicles, there are thousands of units at all price levels held vacant by speculators. Various studies of exactly what the discrepancy is have had varied results, but anecdotally it’s apparent that many older buildings in Berkeley have unrented units, and many of our new buildings have signs advertising available “luxury” apartments which are being held out of the market in anticipation of even higher rents. 

It’s popular for developers and their legislator cronies to claim that building near transit hubs will reduce greenhouse gases by reducing auto use. In fact there’s little objective proof of this theory, but it’s indisputable that rezoning transit neighborhoods benefits those who have already acquired building sites in the target areas. That’s why politicians in the California legislature are eagerly moving to take control of local land use from California’s cities and towns, even from those they supposedly represent. See, e.g. Scott Wiener, Nancy Skinner, Buffy Wicks and others. 

Now there’s an added incentive for wannabe builders to buy up property in Berkeley and similar cities. A new Trump-backed federal law has created “opportunity zones” in cities which provide a way for oligarchs, home-grown and otherwise, to escape paying capital gains taxes by investing in development in these designated areas. For more information about the mechanism, see: DISPLACEMENT ZONES: How Opportunity Zones Turn Communities into Tax Shelters for the Rich 

I’ve been told that parts of Berkeley were designated for such zones by the unilateral decision of one individual in the city’s economic development department. City elected officials have told me that his choice can’t be reversed—why, I’m not sure, and they’re vague about it when I ask. However it happened, it’s a disaster. 

Case in point: 2211 Harold Way. That’s the widely opposed mega-project planned for the corner of Harold Way and Shattuck that would result in the demolition of the very popular Shattuck Cinemas,albeit with a wishy-washy provision that the theaters would be rebuilt sometime somehow maybe. 

The project was approved in December of 2015 at one of the very last council meetings in the regime of former Mayor Tom Bates, in a chaotic approval process that looked an awful lot like chicanery to many observers. There was a time limit for taking out permits, which the would-be developers missed for three years in a row because they couldn’t come up with the requisite funding, only to be granted serial extensions by the City of Berkeley’s Planning Director. Oh, and do you remember that the hired fixer who represented the developer during the planning process was that official’s predecessor, now working on the outside of the Planning Department’s revolving door? 

Soon we’ll have the opportunity to once again watch this fine old conflict play out. This month is, for the fourth time, the deadline by which the developers should be required to put up or shut up. There’s a rumor that they have finally amassed the capital to go forward, thanks to the Opportunity Zone incentive. But if they don’t come up with the money, the planning director has the power to give them another year—or maybe more—to make their nut. The majority of the Berkeley City Councilmembers, including Mayor Jesse Arreguin, now up for re-election, were elected largely because of the backing of the many citizens who opposed this project. It will be interesting to see whether the electeds will at last be able to stop it if the city staff tries to give the investors yet another pass. And, whether they want to. 






The Editor's Back Fence

The California "Housing Crisis" Explained

Sunday December 01, 2019 - 11:03:00 AM

If you're confused by sloppy reporting and political propaganda about "the California housing crisis", two recent articles by Bob Silvestri at the Marin Post, complete with excellent graphics, should help you understand what's happening. Here are links—read them and learn what's up with development politics.

The Dow Jones, CalPERS, and Us

Economic theory suggests that central banks can stimulate consumer demand, business lending, and the economy in general by lowering interest rates in bad times. At the same time, the stock market is generally considered a reflection of the health of the economy, i.e., if the market is booming it portends good times, ahead.So, then why has the Federal Reserve been cutting interest rates when the stock market is making new all-time highs, almost daily? They have usually only done that when they see the markets faltering. As a casual observer, you start to wonder if they are afraid of what might happen if the markets did fall, even just a little.

Assuming that the Fed hasn't totally lost its way and isn't being guided by the tweet of the day, the question is what is their reasoning? And most importantly, why should you care?


When the housing “crisis” meets a financial crisis, who will pick up the tab?

The Governor of California recently signed a slew of housing incentive laws, designed to wrest control of planning, zoning, and project permitting approval away from locally elected governments by imposing top-down, state-mandated control. These laws will add significant infrastructure cost burdens on local taxpayers, to accommodate the growth being incentivized. These laws also remove many environmental protections and in some cases completely eliminate existing public-process protections under the now tattered California Environmental Quality Act.

As explained in recent Marin Post articles, the premise that supports these dramatic changes is based on faulty and politically motivated “need analysis,” not demonstrable facts. And, the end of this appears to be nowhere in sight.


Public Comment

Is Elizabeth Warren Progressive Enough?

Carol Polsgrove
Friday November 29, 2019 - 04:57:00 PM

A friend sent me this Guardian piece on Warren :Progressives, trust your gut: Elizabeth Warren is not one of us

Here were my thoughts, in an email to my friend:

On Warren: I have written her campaign TWICE to urge her to back off Medicare for All and advocate instead Medicare as a public option under the Affordable Care Act umbrella. I believe that is the best course for multiple reasons: (1) The prospect of too much change too fast makes too many people nervous. (2) There's not a chance that she (or Bernie or anyone else) would get Medicare for All through Congress (and the President does not dictate what Congress does -- whatever legislative proposal a president makes, Trump's notion of his powers notwithstanding, it is Congress that makes the law). (3) I have concerns about what pulling the plug on the insurance industry--suddenly--would do to the economy (and my retirement fund!) AND to employment, in both the insurance and medical industries.

Therefore, I applauded Warren's pulling back on Medicare for All. Paul Krugman has it right -- here and in other columns:

Don’t Make Health Care a Purity Test—There are multiple ways to achieve universal coverage. 

As for the other points in this column, especially foreign policy, I'll do some further research. But as for the charge that hers is a "pragmatic way of staving off a populist revolution" I say: Thank God for that. Donald Trump has given us a taste of "populist revolution" -- and I expect many, like me, feel we're standing on the edge of a precipice. God save us from armchair revolutionaries like the author of the Guardian column.

This is a big complex country---great changes can come in it (e.g. the New Deal, brought on by a confluence of factors, and subsequent post-World War II prosperity) but I'd rather have a savvy Elizabeth Warren in the Oval Office than a star-as-himself Bernie Sanders....(or the bull-in-the-China-shop Donald Trump). 


In this column I detect a whiff of identity politics at its worse: defined (by me) as making political choices that affirm your own personal identity rather than moving a population forward in the direction you'd like to see it move. 

King Trump pardons war criminals

Tejinder Uberoi
Friday November 29, 2019 - 04:35:00 PM

American democracy is rapidly sinking into tyrannical rule. A man who has never experienced the horrors of war, successfully evading the draft through his father’s intervention, now sees fit to usurp the US military code of justice and pardon convicted war criminals, 1st Lt. Clint Lorance and Mathew Goldteyn and the promotion of Edward Gallagher, the Navy SEAL who was convicted of stabbing a prisoner to death in a grotesque orgy and then celebrating his death, laughing gleefully over his dead body. President Trump described the Seals as “good men” sending an unmistakable message that indiscriminate killing by US soldiers could continue with complete impunity. 

What then is stopping the President ordering war crimes and then pardoning the perpetrators? What’s next, standing on 5th avenue and shooting his perceived enemies and then pardoning himself? Wake up Republicans your leader has lost his sanity.

Conversation with a Berner

Glen Kohler
Friday November 29, 2019 - 06:24:00 PM

LAst Sunday evening I received a phone text message from one Cameron, field organizer for Senator Sanders’ California campaign. This is the second call I have had from Bernie’s camp, so I decided to make my number as an Elizabeth Warren supporter right away. The following conversation is taken from my iPhone. Spelling is cleaned up. 


Hey Glen, it’s Cameron with Bernie 2020! Did you hear? We are having a California for Bernie statewide organizing call on Tuesday, November 26th at 8:00 pm to learn how each of us can help Bernie win California! Can you make it? 


I prefer that Senator Sanders step down so we don’t risk his prospective VP (who at this stage remains unnamed) becoming acting President if/when the Senator’s health fails. He should bow out gracefully and endorse Senator Warren. 


Bernie had a routine procedure and is roaring back into action on the campaign trail. From a strong debate performance on Oct. 15th to massive rallies across the country, the campaign is stronger than ever! We need someone with his bold vision to win the presidency and help transform America. That being said, would you be interested in attending our organizing call? 


Heart attacks are never ‘routine’ at any age, however you want to spin it. But the good man is 74. As for his vision, it is less clear and less complete than Senator Warren’s—whose direct aim at laissez-faire capitalism and government corruption—expressed in 40+ detailed analyses and action plans—is unmatched by any other candidate. 


Bernie is actually in the best position to beat Trump. He has beaten Trump in nearly every head to head poll since 2016. He has favorable ratings across the aisle and record-breaking popularity among young people. Poll after poll shows that the majority of Americans support the issues that Bernie is running on, including Medicare for All, the $15 minimum wage, combating climate change and much more. 


I seem to detect that you are not conversant with E.W.’s performance history and current plans. Perhaps if you were you would discern political opinion-molding from a serious assessment of job fitness. Warren’s Consumer Finance Protection Bureau returned 11 billion dollars to people cheated by so-called financial services and banks. Since you are engaging me I will say that her town hall meetings show an impressive range of on-target critiques with honest appraisals of what should—yea must—be done in remedy. 

I voted for Mr. Sanders in the last primary. But even then the ‘Warren Wing’ of the Democratic party was the more faithful rendition of the America I grew up in. My fear is that the DNC will throw away this election to avoid real change, by means of ‘me too’ candidates to neutralize the progressive movement. Mr. Sanders’ vitality and endurance is a legitimate concern. I can’t take seriously anyone who even wants to sweep it under the rug. 


I am very aware of Warren’s polices and previous accomplishments. I just believe that she has an electability problem that Bernie doesn’t have, and does not have a global vision to improve the world. I’m very disappointed in her foreign policy remarks, and in terms of strategy, I believe a mass movement organizer in chief is what this nation needs right now. With regards to Bernie and his age, I’d like to note that Nelson Mandela was his age when he was first elected President of South Africa. It’s not impossible to have an old man like Bernie be a transformative leader, and I believe him to be the best option for any type of left future. I do believe that Warren is a decent candidate, but I have too many issues with her to fully support her in the way that I do Bernie. 


That’s no answer. If you need a top-flight surgeon to survive, as this country does, you do what you have to to obtain that person’s services. A meme like ‘electability’ is floated to prevent real thought and analysis. Buy into it and the other side has already won. At 74, just after a heart episode, Mr. Sanders could team with Warren to carry the day. We don’t win if some ‘acceptable’ VP is in the White House seven months into the next administration. ‘Anyone but tRump’ is not the definitive answer, as you no doubt are aware. 

After that Cameron had nothing further to say. 

I found Cameron to be less than perfectly candid, reaching for another thought when he found my point inconvenient—a diversionary tactic that I normally expect from the right. 

As Cameron trumpeted Bernie’s ‘bold ideas’, I reflected that Warren’s are more extensive, and she has already carried a big one through to completion. Without waiting to become President, Warren’s push to create the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau was a contemporary equivalent of the New Deal under FDR. Warren effectively retrieved and restored 11 billion dollars that were legally stolen from Americans by instituionalized thieves in the business sector.  

No other candidate has achieved anything like Ellizabeth’s coup against the inhumane greed of laissez-faire capitalism. 

Comparing Bernie to Nelson Mandela is not a one-to-one match. Mandela was a revolutionary Sisyphus whose resolute persistence pushed the rock of apartheid to the crest of the hill and down the other side to smite black South Africans’ tormentors. Bernie is not in the same class as Mandela. Few people in history are. 

The notion that Warren cannot be elected first appeared on CNN’s bottom-of-the-screen ticker tape earlier this year. By parroting this misogynist attack meme, Cameron labeled himself a shyster. Women have been elected heads of state around the world, but the Camerons in the U.S. seem resolute in their resistance to full political participation by all citizens. 

This can only be because Warren is just a little too electable to suit her opponents. What is worse, she is not vulnerable to the usual character assassination or impuning her political life. So make up a meme and pedal it. Not the most principled campaign tactic. 

Cameron’s refusal to acknowledge the implications of Senator Sanders’ heart attack sacrificed truth. Bernie’s spokesman’s effort to bluster past the reality of the candidate’s dicey health offered zero assurance that Mr. Sanders is fit and capable for what will surely be among the world’s hardest jobs. 

Bernie’s boldest vision may be of himself in the White House. Cameron did not correct my erroneous impression that Senator Sanders is 74, but in fact Bernie is 78. How likely is it that he will be able to serve a second term if elected in 2020? Given his fragile health and Warren’s strong qualifications, demonstrated legislative ability, and resolute drive, Mr. Sanders’ candidacy is hard to see as acting in the best interest of the country.

ICE entraps & bilks foreign students

Jagjit Singh
Friday November 29, 2019 - 06:16:00 PM

ICE, “International Criminal Enterprise”, is living up to its name. Investigative reporters revealed that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) lured international students, principally from India, to a fake US university bilking them out of millions of dollars and then deported them. It was a classic entrapment scheme condoned by the thoroughly disgraced Trump administration. Predictably the morally challenged Republicans remained silent but drew sharp criticism from the left, including Senator Elizabeth Warren, who called the practice “cruel and appalling.” Matt Duss, foreign policy adviser for Bernie Sanders, called for ICE to be abolished. 

Investigations by the Detroit Free-Press, uncovered a wicked scheme entrapping about 250 students, mostly from India, who have been arrested on immigration violations since the beginning of the year.

DHS had established the fake “University of Farmington” in 2015 and charged around $12,000 per year in tuition and fees. No physical classrooms existed and there was no teaching staff.

The students enrolled in the fake university which allows foreigners to work and study in the US. What remains unknown is what happened to the millions of dollars received by ICE.

This harks back to Trump University which offered worthless diplomas to unsuspecting students -
another bizarre scheme where the architect, President Trump, has never been held to account.

Ann Coulter Should Not Be Invited to the Campus

Michelle Le Paule
Saturday November 30, 2019 - 11:32:00 AM

The university is a place where intellectuals gather to exchange and teach ideas. Intellectuals are people who are passionate seekers of truth. They seek this truth by employing rigorous methodologies peculiar to their fields. A responsible intellectual is self-effacing and personally disciplined. He/she has learned to see and release him/herself from the demons that inhabit us and distort the truth. The most common of these demons are of greed and pride. The kind of people who are and should be invited to campuses are other intellectuals, researchers and authors who share these traits. 

People like Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos are not seekers of truth. They employ their intellects in the SERVICE of the demons of greed and pride. They repeatedly lie outright. Their methodology is that of propaganda. They don't merely represent a point of view. 

Those in the position in the university to invite or not invite guests are capable of making this distinction. I implore them to do so in the future. 

Michelle LePaule can be contacted at lepaule@att.net

Governing in Bad Faith

Steve Martinot
Saturday November 30, 2019 - 11:30:00 AM

It did not appear in the evening news, nor in the Chronicle, but last Sunday (11/24), some citizens of Oakland and Berkeley made a vain attempt to keep the city of Oakland honest. They failed miserably – at the hands of Oakland’s absolute refusal of honesty, as well as of civic virtue.

These citizens were a subgroup of the community of residents known as the unhoused, or as they say, those living curbside. They had previously taken the city at its word, that it was sincerely interested in resolving the problem of shelter for the homeless with winter coming on. But since the city’s word proved to be empty, and devoid of humane effort or intent, they decided to avail themselves of higher law (i.e. the US Constitution), and by that means, bestow honesty and virtue where it had been refused.

The Facts: in a highly organized manner, about 30 people took it upon themselves to set up tents as shelters on the civic center lawn in front of City Hall, an area that is public land, on a brisk but sunny Sunday morning, and prepare themselves for the coming rains. They had an information table, and a food table, offering both to the public, out of their own generosity and community-mindedness. But at 1:30 that night, the city sent the police in to destroy this effort at morality and true democratic spirit at around 1:30 am, that same night, seizing property and eliminating for them the ability to survive the elements.

What do you call a political entity that commits a crime rather than accept a gift? The gift? Keeping the city true to its word. 


A partial list of the crimes committed by the city. 

1- Oakland violated the Martin vs. Boise decision by the Ninth Circuit Court which states that refusal to allow homeless people to sleep on public land is a violation of the 8th Amendment of the US Constitution unless the city can provide shelter for those people. 

2- The police confiscated the tents, the possession needed to defend against the elements, the radios and phones, the medicines and talismans of the campers, without due process, and thus violated the 5th Amendment of the US Constitution. 

3- The police violated their oaths of office which says they swear to uphold and defend the US Constitution (against all enemies, internal and external). 

4- The city administrators and councilmembers who ordered and permitted this raid on the encampment violated their oaths of office which says they swear to uphold and defend the US Constitution (against the same enemies, viz. those who substitute tyranny for democracy). 

5- Arbitrary and gratuitous assaults on harmless, peaceful, oppressed people, victims of economic and cultural impoverishment by the society at large, who are simply attempting to survive, is a gross violation of the right of self-defense of all people subject to unprovoked aggression. 


The statement of purpose of the encampment 


We are a group of Oaklanders who are homeless, 

or who are housed, or who are on the verge of 

becoming homeless. 

Over the past two years, we have been survivors 

of and/or witnesses to the cruel and inhumane 

treatment of The City government to Oakland's 


In the past two years these government offices 

have spent more than $30 million dollars towards 

"solving" homelessness. But during those two 

years homelessness doubled in Oakland, and 

dozens of unhoused residents who used the city's 

programs are back on the streets. 


1. An immediate end to evictions of curbside communities, demolitions of homes and towing of vehicles people live in or store belongings in. 

2. An immediate end to the destruction of curbside residents‘ personal property and survival gear. 

3. The City Council directed the Mayor and her Administration two years ago to identify and make available at least two parcels of public land in each district to be used for sanctuaries, villages or other community-led emergency approaches to support and shelter curbside communities. This never happened, and must happen immediately. 

4. No more fundraising for or building any more Tuff Sheds. These programs are a waste of money and not effective to meet the scale of the homeless state of emergency or the actual needs of curbside residents. 

5. An end to market rate and above market rate development. The City must turn its attention to the neglected, deeply affordable housing development goals in the next year. 

6. Immediately upgrade all curbside communities with adequate portapotties, trash services, clean drinking water, solar power and improvements to self-built homes. 

7. Due to his anti-homeless tendencies, his abuse of power, his complete disregard of the humanity and rights of curbside residents, his mismanagement of millions of dollars to go towards solutions to homelessness — we call for an immediate dismissal of Assistant to the Administrator Joe De Vries. Due to his deep anti-homeless biases and arbitrary decision making that impact the lives and well-being of Oakland's unhoused, he cannot lead the approaches to solve this crisis. 

8. The immediate implementation of City Councilwoman Nikki Fortunato Bas' recommendations to align all The City's approaches to homelessness with a human rights lens. 


A politics of encampment – what it does and means  

In a very organized and orderly manner, the people of this community set up a number of tents on the lawn in front of city hall, in the very place where Occupy Oakland took root back in 2011. It carefully and conscientiously applied the classical US tradition of civil disobedience, fostered by such philosophers of the 19th century as Thoreau, Emerson, and Thomas Jefferson. 

Their food table was supplied with food they had cooked themselves, as part of their community of self-caring and communal survival. They offered a pasta dish, a large potato salad, and various breads, chips, and dips. 

The various Berkeley communities of the homeless were represented, helping in solidarity and participation to set up the camp, as a humanitarian effort against a city in bad faith. What the encampment means, above all else, is that this is the only real form of survival these people, who live curbside, have. Only their own community takes their survival and health as a concern. Only their own community is left to them in a social environment that politically scorns them and leaves them on the street to die. 

When the homeless explain that the actual attempts to provide shelter by the city (whether Oakland or Berkeley) are designed to separate the people from each other, and to thus dissolve the community that they need for survival, they are also pointing out another more important and critical meaning. It is to destroy. 

In none of the efforts to resolve the condition of the homeless, or to provide them with shelter, has either city ever involved the homeless themselves in articulating and formulating the policies that might then alleviate their situation. Democracy means that those who will be affected by a policy should be the ones to articulate and decide the policy that will affect them. 

It is the refusal of this principle that points to the most egregious form of bad faith on the city’s part – both cities. All positions of overlordship or elitism, when manifest in this society, are in bad faith. The proof of their bad faith is that their rhetorical efforts cover social programs that only make the condition of the homeless worse. 


And the solution to the problem of the homeless? 

There are dozens of solutions, spoken every day, and unheard only because of a refusal to hear. 

· Open buildings that have been vacant for years for occupancy. There are hundreds. 

· Protect tenants that are falling beneath the inflation juggernaut. 

· End rent gouging. 

· Use public land for public good, that is, to take care of keeping people alive – instead of that cynical guarantee that "all" have equal use. 

· Foster dialogue between the homeless and the neighborhoods so that they can figure out how each can help and be of service to the other. 

When a person’s life is at stake, a refusal to help them is a crime – against them and against humanity. 

Mac Head’s Musings -Your Personal Data, for Free on the‘Net

Glen Kohler
Friday November 29, 2019 - 06:37:00 PM

Ypur personal information has become a commodity, harvested and sold on the Internet. You might hope your private affairs are at least handled with care, in light of the thousands of hackers, phishers, and ’bots hitting every web site and server, 24 hours a day. But no, not always. 

Take data seller Apollo, for example. Apollo—which you have probably never heard of—is big in what they call Sales Intelligence. The firm is what is known as a data aggregator: it collects all manner of data from public sources on the web, as well as social networks such as Twitter and LinkedIn, then sells it to every Tom, Dick, or Harry that can pay Apollo’s tarriff. 

This year (at least) data aggregator Apollo failed to secure its web servers. Really. 

Computer and web-savvy people could get in and help themselves. We know this because Vinny Troia, founder of Night Lion Security, makes it a habit to scan the internet for databases that are not secure. Last Summer Vinny discovered that he could access Apollo's very large database. For hackers and ‘bots that’s like leaving a camera on the dashboard of your car and the doors unlocked. Help yourselves, fellas. 

Troia told Apollo that their fly was open in mid-August of this year. 

The sheer volume of information that was available makes this lapse significant. According to an article in Wired Magazine—the source for this story—Troia determined that Apollo possessed 212 million individual contacts, and over nine billion ‘data points’ that show relationships between firms and institutions. 

Given the vast amounts of digital criminal activity taking place every second of every day, is there any doubt that at least some dark entities helped themsevles to Apollo’s storehouse of personal data? Executives at Linked in, from which Apollo has gained copious amounts of information, were particularly angry. 


The people at Apollo aren’t the only ones being careless with other’s information. See Wired Magazine, 07.05.2019: https://www.wired.com/story/biggest-cybersecurity-crises-2019-so-far/ 


Faster Broadband in the U.K. offers on online tool that shows, to some extent at least, whether your email address has been harvested and by whom: 



THE PUBLIC EYE: The New Normal

Bob Burnett
Friday November 29, 2019 - 04:26:00 PM

This week, Northern California had its first significant rain and our fire season ended. (Unfortunately, as I write this, there is a big fire burning in Southern California near Santa Barbara.) For the last several years, fire season has lasted longer than it once did, and the fires have been more ferocious. Californians are beginning to acknowledge that this is the new normal.

Here in Sonoma County -- north of San Francisco -- we're still recovering from the mammoth Kincade fire, which started on October 23rd and was fully contained on November 6, 2019. It burned 77,758 acres and destroyed 374 buildings. Amazingly, no one was killed; probably because the County Sheriff ordered a massive evacuation and our local utility company turned off almost all the county's electricity. (Once the evacuation order was lifted, it took several days for power to be restored.)

Most of the locals see the Kincade fire as a consequence of three factors: global climate change, reckless building in the "wildland-urban-interface" (WUI), and infrastructure decay. Climate change has caused our summers to become much drier and the fall winds to be more intense. (During the Kincade fire there were 96 mile-per-hour winds.) For a variety of reasons, California's suburbs have pushed into the wildland-urban-interface and shortsighted city planners have let developers build in locations there were once thought to be too dangerous because of the possibility of wildfires. Finally, our energy infrastructure has not been properly maintained by the primary Northern California provider, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E); now, when the winds kick up, we are at risk because of aging transmission lines and transformers. (Belatedly, PG&E acknowledged this; early in the course of the Kincade fire, the utility shut off all electric service in the projected path of the firestorm -- most of west Sonoma County.) 

The question Californians now face is how to adapt to the new normal. One option would be to relocate, but that would likely mean a move out of state because all parts of California are now threatened by wildfires. (Indeed, most of the western states have this problem.) And, of course, moving to another state means moving to an area that is subjected to another consequence of climate change, such as hurricanes. 

The other option is to remain in California and support substantial action to mitigate fire risk. Two approaches have been suggested; both of them involve major financial expenditures. One is to upgrade the electrical grid in a way that minimizes the fire risk. The other is to "harden" vulnerable communities. 

As a consequence of the 2017 Tubbs fire -- also in Sonoma County -- and the 2018 Camp Fire -- up the road in Butte County -- PG&E declared bankruptcy. (https://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-pge-bankruptcy-filing-20190129-story.html) Now Californians are embroiled in discussion about what to do with the utility. This will take several years to work out. 

In the meantime, Californians, who live outside big cities, must be prepared to have their power shut off for days at a time -- during fire season. In other words, Californians who live in rural areas, or the "WUI," will have to have substantial backup power -- generators or solar panels plus batteries -- or do without. This new reality applies to both homes and businesses -- one of the problems uncovered during the October Sonoma County evacuation was that many gas stations did not have power and therefore their pumps didn't work. (Obviously, the prospect of continuous power outages places a singular burden on the less fortunate members of the community.) 

Regardless of the ultimate disposition of PG&E, the electrical grid needs to hardened. In many cases this means burying transmission lines and distribution lines. In other cases this means fortifying electrical substations and transformers. 

Vulnerable communities also need to be hardened. City planners need to severely restrict further building in the WUI. (A restriction that runs head-on in California's desire to provide more housing units.) Communities must provide incentives for landowners to maximize their defensible space. Evacuation routes need to be widened and adjacent foliage needs to be cleared. Substantial fire breaks need to be created between communities -- spaces at least one-quarter mile wide. Finally, funding should be provided so that communities can provide "shelter-in-place" fire refuges. 

(If these steps aren't taken, insurance companies are going to declare large swaths of California as uninsurable. Meaning that many rural communities will disappear.) 

If you live outside California, and think none of this relates to you, you're mistaken. Global climate change will impact all regions of the United States. If you live in areas along the Atlantic or Gulf coast you will be subjected to hurricanes and rising tides. If you live in the midwest, you will be subjected to ice storms and tornados. When you recognize that this is the new normal, you will be faced with the same decisions that confront Californians: either move or take dramatic action to accommodate these new challenges. You can run, but you cannot hide. 


Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer and activist. He can be reached at bburnett@sonic.net

ECLECTIC RANT: Russia, not Ukraine, Interfered in Our 2016 Presidential Election

Ralph E. Stone
Friday November 29, 2019 - 04:30:00 PM

Dr. Fiona Hill, the White House’s former top expert on Russia, warned that Republicans Republicans loyal to Trump must stop pushing the “fictional narrative perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 presidential election because it plays into Vladimir Putin’s hand.” 

Robert Mueller’s long-awaited report is unambiguously clear on this point: Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election and sought to help Donald Trump win the White House. The Mueller investigation did indict 26 Russian nationals and three Russian companies.  

Prior to the 2016 election, the U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC) warned that the Russian Government directed compromises of e-mails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations. "The recent disclosures of alleged hacked e-mails on sites like DCLeaks.com and WikiLeaks and by the Guccifer 2.0 online persona are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts. These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process." 

On January 2017, the Intelligence Community Assessment report on Russia's consistent goals "to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.” This was done through cyberattacks and Russia’s state-run propaganda. For example, attacks were made into voter databases and software systems in at least thirty-nine states. In Illinois, investigators found evidence that cyber hackers tried to delete or alter voter data. The hackers accessed software designed to be used by poll workers on Election Day, and in at least one state accessed a campaign finance database. 

The bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee released a two-volume report, one in July 2019 and one in October 2019 concluding that, “This detailed, bipartisan report adds further incontrovertible proof to what we have long known to be true: Russia was relentless in its efforts to interfere in the 2016 election. 

In a classified briefing this fall, U.S. intelligence officials told senators and their aides that Russia has engaged in a years-long disinformation campaign to shift the blame away from Russia and onto Ukraine for interfering in the 2016 American presidential campaign. This briefing was similar to Dr. Hill’s testimony. 

Extensive evidence gathered by U.S. intelligence has shown that Russia was the key actor in social media meddling and the hacking of Democratic servers in the 2016 campaign. During the now-famous July 25 phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Mr. Trump said, “I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say CrowdStrike ... The server, they say Ukraine has it.” 

CrowdStrike, a private security firm, is based on the idea that Ukraine was complicit in the 2016 hacking of the Democratic National Committee to create false electronic records that Russia was behind the hacking. However, CrowdStrike co-founder Dmitri Alperovitch is a Russian-born American, not a Ukrainian. CrowdStrike was hired by the Democratic National Committee to investigate and expunge the hackers responsible for the 2016 breach.  

Yet, even with the overwhelming evidence that Russia, not Ukraine, interfered in the 2016 presidential election with no credible evidence to the contrary, as late as late as November 22, Trump continued to peddle this debunked Ukraine theory during part of a phone call with Fox & Friends. And some of Trump enablers in Congress still push this false narrative.  

I surmise that Republican support of this Russian disinformation campaign is designed to muddy the impeachment inquiry, to make Ukraine less sympathetic to the public, and divert attention away from the Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and likely interference in the 2020 election. I suspect Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his fellow Republican Senators would welcome “help” in the 2020 presidential election. 

As Dr. Hill testified, “This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian Security Services themselves.” By repeating this “false narrative,” Trump and his enablers do a disservice to this country and are aiding and abetting Russia.  

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: How Delusions Become Reinforced

Jack Bragen
Friday November 29, 2019 - 04:50:00 PM

Psychotic delusions, in some instances, seem to fill an emotional need. At other times, delusions produce fear. Both phenomena imply to me that the mechanisms that create psychosis are related to the pain and pleasure mechanisms in the brain. They may also be an attempt of the brain to feed serotonin or other neurotransmitters to some area of the brain that lacks enough of them.

Delusions are almost never emotionally neutral, and because of this, they can be very hard to overcome.

When we wake up out of a delusional system, sometimes we feel a lot of disappointment that the things we were imagining are not real. In other instances, emerging from delusions is a very welcome return to safety following tremendous fear and the perception of danger. 

If delusions did not have an emotional charge connected to them, the task of recognizing and negating delusions would be far easier. This brings us to the concept of mindfulness. 

If you are an experienced meditation or mindfulness practitioner, and if you have learned how to neutralize some of the stronger emotions, this can help with gaining an upper hand on some of the delusions. So far as I can tell, Zen masters are not very prone to having psychotic episodes. Gaining an upper hand on emotions will produce leverage in the struggle against delusions. 

In some instances, delusions can produce pleasurable emotions that provide relief from looking at bleak realities. This could be thought of as a form of denial, but one facilitated by a bad neural route. If you imagine that all the bad things happening are just a test to find out if you are qualified to be a millionaire, this is going to feel better than just acknowledging that everything sucks. 

When "decompensating" (and this, to me, is a derogatory term that I probably shouldn't use) the fear and pleasure mechanisms cause delusions and/or delusional systems to become reinforced. 

Upon going heavily into delusions, the entire content of the brain is haywire, and the initial cause of this may not matter as much. 

When delusions take over the mind, following a period in which they have reinforced themselves, things become worse. The brain starts running too fast. This can cause damage to brain tissue. The damage following a full psychotic episode (once you are on medication and stabilized) is very slow to reverse, if at all. The more psychotic episodes a patient has, the harder it is to function when stabilized. People become very impaired. 

{It is worthy to note here that, to a psychotic person, delusions and hallucinations are taken very literally by the mind, and they present to us as if they are very real facts. If we could distinguish between realities and illusions, we would be daydreaming, not psychotic.} 

The above is preventable for some people. I've had good luck with remaining medicated and in therapy. Yet, I've experienced a lot of problems despite this. 

Medication is the prerequisite but not the full solution. Environment is very important. I am not sure what the ideal environment is for someone with schizophrenia. When one's environment reinforces a perception of safety, it is a good thing. Yet, in order to have the brain working at its best, upon us becoming stabilized, maybe we need challenges. If we remain too comfortable, it is possible that we will become stagnant. 

However, if the environment is excessively challenging to the point where we feel threatened, it may increase the likelihood that delusions will return, even while we are medicated. 

Jack Bragen lives in Martinez. His most popular book is "Instructions for Dealing with Schizophrenia: A Self-Help Manual."  

TECH TOPICS: Mac Users Versus Catalina! (Think Before You Leap)

Glen Kohler
Wednesday November 27, 2019 - 10:13:00 PM

If you use macOS on a laptop or desktop machine, this Macintosh/iPhone tech suggests that you think very carefully before 'upgrading' to macOS 10.15, AKA Catalina. This major change to macOS removes support for 32-bit applications.

This is a concern because thousands of Mac users use 32-bit apps every day: printer and scanner drivers, older versions of Office and Photoshop, and many more. TechRepublic lists 232 32-bit apps that Apple machines will no longer run as of Catalina. A lot of long-time Mac users, including yours truly, use the oldest version of Mac OS X that will work with modern web sites and services, such as Dropbox, etc. We work on all of the versions, but each time Apple has come out with a new OS there are some losses of useful features and more restrictions on what users can and cannot do. 

So again: it is often best not to reflexively click on the 'upgrade' notices that lurch out from the upper right corner of the screen....

Arts & Events

A Delightful HÄNSEL AND GRETEL at The Opera

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Wednesday December 04, 2019 - 09:10:00 PM

Engelbert Humperdinck’s German opera Hänsel und Gretel (1893) has not been done frequently at San Francisco Opera. The last time it appeared here was in 2002, and before that one had to go back to the 1930s for San Francisco Opera productions of Hänsel und Gretel. This season, however, Hänsel and Gretel appears in a delightful co-production with Royal Opera, Covent Garden, and is scheduled here for no less than eight performances. I attended the Tuesday, December 3, performance. 

The libretto, written by Humperdinck’s sister, Adelheid Wette, is based on the fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm. Here it is given in a witty English translation by David Pountney. Even sung in English, Hänsel and Gretel remains steeped in German folklore and German music, both high and low. Inspired by the operas of Richard Wagner, whom Humperdinck befriended and actually worked for, Humperdinck also drew heavily on German church music and simple folk tunes in his score for Hänsel and Gretel.  

The opera begins with an Overture in which horns introduce a stately chorale that reeks of German church music. In fact, it is the music that later functions as the Children’s Prayer, and this melodic theme will be heard throughout the opera. A new, more lively theme ensues, and this is associated with the spell the witch will cast on the children in Act III. A final theme introduces music associated with the Dew Fairy who awakens the sleeping children in the forest at the beginning of Act III. During the Overture, a beautifully drawn Alpen landscape is projected on the scrim, with a simple wooden cottage at the foot of towering snow-capped mountains. 

When the curtain rises, we see the interior of this cottage, where young Hänsel and Gretel are meant to be working, but are restless and hungry. They abandon the tasks set for them by their mother and begin dancing and singing. When their mother returns home, she is furious with them for neglecting their chores. In this family of poor mountain folk, children are supposed to do their share of the work that supports the family’s meagre existence. However, the high spirited children may be hungry, but they won’t be denied their moments of fun. 

The cast for this Hänsel and Gretel production featured mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke as Hänsel, and soprano Heidi Stober as Gretel. Both singers are veterans of many roles here at San Francisco Opera, and they were delightfully paired here as brother and sister. In a trousers role, Sasha Cooke as Hänsel often sought to comfort Gretel; but at many moments it was Heidi Stober’s Gretel who proved more astute in avoiding danger. Vocally, both Cooke and Stober were outstanding; and dramatically they both seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves in their brother-sister roles. Even when scolded by their mother and sent off into the forest to pick strawberries, the children showed resilience. 

Meanwhile, Gertrude, the children’s mother, sung here by mezzo-soprano Michaela Martens, and Peter, their father, sung here by bass-baritone Alfred Walker, have argued over their poverty, then made-up when Peter reveals all the foodstuffs he has brought from town by selling the broomsticks he makes. However, when Peter asks where the children are, and is told Gertrude sent them into the forest to gather strawberries, Peter scares the wits out of his wife with lurid tales of a wicked witch who dwells in the forest and eats children. (Here is where the Brothers Grimm indulge their well-known penchant for sadism of sorts.) At the close of Peter’s horrific tale, the parents rush out in search of their children. 

Without pause, an orchestral prelude introduces the famed “Witches’ Ride.” The curtain rises on a forest glade where Hänsel and Gretel pick (and eat) strawberries. When night comes and the children realise they are so deep in the forest they can’t find their way home, they listen to the call of a cuckoo, rendered here by percussionist Victor Avdienko, who plays a flute-like instrument. Then they settle down to sleep on a carpet of leaves. The sandman, sung here by mezzo-soprano Ashley Dixon, an Adler Fellow, kindly sprinkles sand in their eyes to coax them gently to sleep. Before dropping off to sleep, the children intone their evening prayers. 

There ensues an orchestral “Dream-Pantomime” sequence where the sleeping children are watched over by various familiar characters from other tales by the Brothers Grimm. This is a nice touch. Cinderella and her Prince Charming appear, as do Rapunzel, Little Red-Riding Hood, Snow White, Rumpelstiltskin, and a Wolf. Watched over by the Sandman, who reads a book of the Grimm’s Fairy Tales, these characters are joined by angels who guard the sleeping Hänsel and Gretel. The orchestral music of this Dream sequence, like that of the Overture, was adroitly conducted by Christopher Franklin. Choreography of the “Dream-Pantomime” was by Lucy Burge. 

Act III begins with an orchestral Prelude based on an ancient song-game. The Dew Fairy arrives to welcome the dawn. She dances about sprinkling dew drops. Then the Dew Fairy is transformed from a ballet dancer to a singer, and soprano Natalie Image, an Adler Fellow, sings a lovely aria. Gretel awakens first and wonders at the beauty of the forest. She nudges Hänsel awake, and they tell each other their dreams of angels watching over them. Then, suddenly, out of the morning mist the witch’s house appears. The children cry out in astonishment, especially when they realise the house is made of gingerbread and other delights. 

Cautiously, at first, they begin to nibble. A voice is heard, “Nibble, nibble, little mouse. Who’s that nibbling at my house?” The children think they have simply heard the wind in the trees, and they resume nibbling. Then the voice is heard again, intoning “Greedy little mousey, come into my housey.” Then the witch suddenly appears, sung here by tenor Robert Brubaker. With the appearance of the witch, all sorts of special effects are utilised by Director and Production Designer Antony McDonald. Sudden explosions of loud noise are heard, and strobe lights flood the Opera House. Even the lights of the Opera House’s famed chandelier spin out of control! 

The witch, insidiously portrayed by Robert Brubaker, casts spells over the children and seeks to fatten up Hänsel even as she prepares to cook and eat Gretel first. At one point, Gretel grabs the Witch’s magic wand and releases Hänsel from the spell that has immobilised him. Now fully aware of the danger they face, the children wait for the chance to toss the Witch into her own huge chocolate mixer, where she drowns. Now the story takes a moralising turn that is rooted in 19th century German culture. Good has triumphed over Evil, Heaven has answered the children’s prayers, dead children return to life, their eyes suddenly able to see once more, and Hänsel and Gretel are joyfully reunited with their parents, as the opera comes to a close. 

One last performance remains of Humperdinck’s Hänsel and Gretel; it is on Saturday, December 7, at 7:30 at the War Memorial Opera House. If you’re looking for engaging family entertainment in the holiday spirit, you couldn’t ask for anything better than this delightful opera production. Don’t miss it. 



Hillside Club Art Show Exhibits Berkeley Artists

Tuesday December 03, 2019 - 11:48:00 AM

The Berkeley Hillside Club's yearly Art Show opens Friday, December 6 with a reception from 7 to 9 p.m. followed on Saturday, December 7th with a full day of exhibits and sales from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Hillside Club Art Show is at 2286 Cedar Street in North Berkeley. Wheelchair accessible. 

Well-known Berkeley artists showing their jewelry, photos, paintings, posters, fabrics, cards and crafts include Dianne Ayres, David Goines, Ruth Grimes, Ellen Singer-Vine, Mona Reeva, and items from Quelquefois Press, Jolom Mayaetik textiles and Local Color Cards. 

The Art Show is an ongoing tradition of the Hillside Club . Founded in the late 19th century to promote good design practices in the Berkeley hills, the architect John White designed the current clubhouse after the original Maybeck building was destroyed by fire in 1923. It was designated a City of Berkeley Landmark in 2004. 

Today the Hillside Club is a community-based membership organization supporting the arts and culture. The historic hall restrooms are ADA compliant. 

For more information please call 510-213-4292 or visit the Hillside Club web site: https://bhcweb.wixsite.com/hillsideclub All are welcome.

Manfred Honeck Conducts Bruckner’s 4th Symphony in San Francisco

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Saturday November 30, 2019 - 11:36:00 AM

I first experienced the magic of Bruckner when legendary conductor Sergiu Celibidache made a guest appearance in 1989 with San Francisco Symphony in Bruckner’s 4th or “Romantic” Symphony. (Bruckner himself gave his 4th Symphony the subtitle “Romantic,” though he seems to have had in mind medieval chivalry rather than 19th century Romanticism.) The intensity of Celibidache’s famed devotion to Bruckner was palpable; and I found that performance of Bruckner’s 4th Symphony absolutely riveting. To this day, that concert remains one of my all time favorites. At present, Manfred Honeck, Music Director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, is in town to lead San Francisco Symphony in three performances, November 22-4, of Bruckner’s 4th Symphony paired with Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 22 in E-flat Major, K. 482, with Leif Ove Andsnes as soloist. I attended Saturday’s performance at Davies Symphony Hall. 

Anton Bruckner was born in 1824 in the Austrian village of Ansfelden. When Anton’s father, a schoolteacher, died when young Anton was thirteen, his mother sent him to the music school at nearby St. Florian monastery, where he served for four years as a choirboy. During this time, Anton Bruckner received intensive musical training. In 1841, Bruckner took on a series of jobs as a licenced schoolteacher, but he found teaching in rural Austrain schools quite boring. So when St. Florian invited Bruckner to return in 1845 as a member of their musical faculty, he jumped at the chance. At St. Florian, Bruckner became a virtuoso improviser on the monastery’s organ. I once visited St. Florian, admired its bucolic setting and its Baroque architecture, and discovered that Bruckner’s body is buried there in the crypt beneath the church’s organ. He died in Vienna in 1896. 

Among Bruckner’s nine symphonies, his 4th was his first triumph, and it has remained the most accessible and often performed of his symphonies. However, like all of Bruckner’s music, his 4th Symphony by no means proceeds in anything like the traditional structures of composition. Bruckner composes in blocks of music, and there is usually a single theme in each block. A first theme is introduced in the first block, and a second theme in the second block. Then Bruckner returns to develop the first theme in the third block, and he returns to develop the second theme in the fourth block, and so on. In his 4th Symphony, the opening theme is sounded in a horn solo, beautifully performed here by principal horn player Robert Ward. This horn theme is then taken up by other wind instruments. Gradually, over a lengthy span of seventy-four measures, this opening theme develops as it is shared by various wind instruments, often used in an “echo effect.” It builds to a full orchestration and a fortissimo climax. Then, suddenly, a new block of music intervenes as a second, lighter theme is introduced in soft dynamics and a dancelike tune in a rhythm so often used by the composer that it is dubbed the “Bruckner rhythm”: two quarter notes followed by a triplet of three-quarter notes in 4/4 time.  

Transitions from one musical block to the next are often marked by extreme changes in dynamics. If a block begins softly, it may gradually build to a fortissimo climax; but often it does not, or, rather, the loud climax will not mark the end of this block, which often returns to close out in softer dynamics. Then, when the next block begins, it is often quite loud in its opening measures. Within a single block, there are also frequent dynamic changes. In his 4th Symphony, Bruckner’s opening movement, marked “Moving, not too fast,” contains many musical blocks, which alternate back and forth. His second movement, marked Andante quasi allegretto,” opens with two measures of muted chords in the strings, after which the cellos announce a gorgeous melodic theme over muted accompaniment from other strings. Then woodwinds take up this theme over a pizzicato strumming from the strings. There follows a lovely passage in the violas, then a brief flute solo, admirably performed here by principal flutist Tim Day. 

The third movement is a Scherzo, and in our San Francisco Symphony performances we heard the “Hunting Scherzo” Bruckner wrote to replace his original scherzo. Once again, horns predominate here. At first, they are heard as if from a distance, over hushed string tremolos. Then all the various brass instruments join in the hunt, and this opening block builds to a loud climax. Suddenly, however, a new, softer block of music intervenes, and we hear a dancelike Ländler in which oboe and clarinet proclaim an innocent rustic dance tune. This bucolic turn of events is short-lived, however, and we return to a new, abbreviated block of the opening “Hunting Scherzo.”  

The fourth and final movement opens with woodwinds and horns accompanied by quivering strings. The horns then recall the Scherzo’s hunting call. The full orchestra now builds to a thundering climax, then subsides. Now a new block ensues, softer in dynamics and lighter in texture, with flutes and clarinets recalling both the earlier melodies of the Andante and the rustic dance tune of the third movement. At Saturday’s performance, I chuckled to myself at the juxtaposition of the fortissimo climax of the first block and the piano dynamics and lighter, almost insouciant texture of the second block, finding this a typically Brucknerian juxtaposition. In fact, this same juxtaposition occurs twice in the Finale, and I chuckled both times. To close out this 4th Symphony, Bruckner adds a brilliant coda in which we hear a return to the Symphony’s opening horn call, then builds to thundering crescendo in full orchestra. Throughout this 4th Symphony of Anton Bruckner, conductor Manfred Honeck adroitly paced this symphony’s many alternations of blocks of music and their respective dynamic changes.  

The first half of Saturday’s program consisted of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 22 in E-flat Major, K. 482, with Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes as soloist. Written in late 1785 when Mozart was also composing Le Nozze di Figaro, his 22nd Piano Concerto conveys a serene sense of dignity that recalls these elements in the character of Countess Almaviva. In fact, several of this piano concerto’s melodies sound quite a bit like those sung by the Countess in “Porgi amor,” and “Dove sono.” The concerto opens with a brass fanfare accompanied by the timpani. There ensues what might easily be portions of a wind serenade, with dissonances in the bassoons. When the piano enters, it does so in brief, elegant passages, gracefully performed here by Leif Ove Andsnes. Later in the first movement, Andsnes played a cadenza written by John Fraser, Mozart having left no cadenzas.  

The second movement, a darkly brooding Andante, is one of the few slow movements Mozart wrote in a minor key. One might liken its mood to that of the Countess Almaviva when she laments the philandering of her husband and even contemplates death. Once again, winds tend to predominate here, and there is imaginative interplay between the flute and bassoon.  

The third and final movement, marked Rondo: Allegro, is full of surprises. It opens with a “hunting tune,” then launches into orchestral passages emphasisng the winds, especially flute and bassoon. Suddenly, however, a retardando slows the music down to a momentary pause, until the piano enters pianissimo with an unassuming phrase that has been likened to “a search for a theme.” Little by little, the piano asserts itself with rapid passage figurations. In this performance, Leif Ove Andsnes played a third movement cadenza written by Geza Anda. Then Mozart surprises us with an Andantino slow section that sounds again like something out of a wind serenade. This is introspective music, again, not unlike the introspection of Countess Almaviva as she searches inwardly for a glimmer of hope. When the tempo returns to Allegro, that hope is suggested in an outpouring of gorgeous melodies. But Mozart has one final surprise in store for us. He adds a brilliant coda in which resounding chords are undercut by strings playing the same gentle notes we heard earlier in the moments of introspection. Then, of all things, we hear again the “search for a theme” in the piano, followed by a dramatic rush to a resoundingly affirmative close.  

Although Mozart’s Piano Concert No. 22 offers little in the way of bravado displays of pianistic virtuosity, Leif Ove Andsnes gave a consistently elegant performance; and in this he was partnered by conductor Manfred Honeck’s sensitive attention to detail and nuances of feeling. Both Andsnes and Honeck received enthusiastic applause from the Davies Hall audience. As an encore, Leif Ove Andsnes played a folk song by Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg.  


ERMELINDA: Ars Minerva’s Latest Opera Revival

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday November 29, 2019 - 06:33:00 PM

Over the past five years, Ars Minerva, the opera company founded by Céline Ricci, has discovered and revived five Venetian operas that had long been forgotten. Céline Ricci came across the scores for these operas in the Contarini Collection of Venice’s Marciana Library. Realising she had found an important trove of 17th and early 18th century Venetian operas, Céline Ricci immediately set about the task of reviving the most interesting of these operas. In 2015 Ars Minerva revived Daniele da Castrovillari’s La Cleopatra, which had never been heard anywhere since its premiere in 1662. For Ricci’s Ars Minerva, La Cleopatra proved an auspicious debut; and it has been followed in ensuing years by four more important revivals. The latest, Ermelinda (1680) by Domenico Freschi, had its opening performance on Friday, November 22, at San Francisco’s ODC Theatre.  

Céline Ricci has noted that “Ars Minerva not only promotes rare and long forgotten music, but also is committed to highlighting powerful women in history: Cleopatra, the Amazon women warriors, Circe, Goddess of magic, Iphigenia and her mother Clytemnestra fighting patriarchal commands to sacrifice a daughter to the glory of an army.” Now, in Domenico Freschi’s Ermelinda, Ricci focuses our attention on a fictional young woman who struggles against patriarchal authority to be free to love the man of her choice. In the libretto for Ermelinda by Francesco Maria Piccioli, Ermelinda loves Ormindo, and he returns her love. But Ermelinda’s father, Aristeo, is determined to protect his daughter from the temptations of love in an urban environment. So he brings Ermelinda to a rural village in Phoenicia, where Ermelinda is bored to tears. Her beloved Ormindo, meanwhile, has discovered where she has been taken; and disguised as a peasant named Clorindo, he approaches the village and is befriended and taken in as a guest by the nobleman Armidoro. Unknown to Ormindo/Clorindo, Armidoro too yearns for Ermelinda. 

In Armidoro’s opulent country house, his sister Rosaura develops a crush on the handsome Clorindo. She confides this to her friend Ermelinda. However, when Ermelinda meets her beloved Ormindo disguised as the peasant Clorindo, their momentary joy requires them to dissemble. Ermelinda suggests that Clorindo must be mad; and Clorindo, taking the hint, feigns madness. This sets in motion a complicated plot of feigned on again/off again madness, false encouragements of Rosaura by Clorindo, and a false announcement of Clorindo’s death devised by Ermelinda’s father to test his daughter.  

Ermelinda was sung by mezzo-soprano Nikola Printz. Contralto Sara Couden sang Ormindo/Clorindo; and mezzo-soprano Kindra Scharich was Rosaura. The various scenes of Freschi’s Ermelinda were gorgeously rendered in projections by the German-born designer, Entropy, who visualised the settings of a 17th century Phoenician village. Ars Minerva’s Artistic Director Céline Ricci staged the opera in ways that emphasised the comedic potential of the plot while also noting the underlying feminist issues. In the latter arena, opposite the earnest Ermelinda, Ricci’s Rosaura was made a ludicrous foil, a woman who flounces all over the stage in misguided pursuit of Clorindo, who unwillingly is obliged to lead her on. Clorindo’s Act I aria, sung to Rosaura, “T’adoro si ma no”/“I adore you yes, but no I don’t,” was a musically effective depiction of Clorindo’s confusion or madness over the role he now had to play towards Rosaura. 

As Rosaura, Kindra Scharich was vocally excellent, and she was also superb in her dramatic portrayal of an airhead. In the role of Ermelinda, Nikola Printz was superlative, both vocally and dramatically. With her lustrous mezzo-soprano, Nikola Printz was throughly engaging as Ermelinda. In a trousers role, contralto Sara Couden was superb as Ormindo/Clorindo. In one of the moments of feigned madness, director Ricci had Clorindo wander over to the instrumentalists at the far right of the stage and tickle with a flower Clorindo wielded like a magic wand several of the musicians, including harpsichordist and conductor Jory Vinikour.  

In the role of Ermelinda’s father, Aristeo, countertenor Justin Montigne was vocally excellent; though his dramatic interpretation may have overplayed the father’s oppressive and even sadistic side. Mezzo-soprano Deborah Rosengaus was effective as the archly noble Armidoro in his misguided pursuit of Ermelinda. Near the end of this opera, Ermelinda’s father, Aristeo, announces a false death of Clorindo to test the true feelings of his daughter. There ensued a deeply felt lament by Ermelinda that is one of this opera’s finest moments. But at the last moment, Ormindo/Clorindo himself arrived to demonstrate that he is still alive and the lovers were joyfully reunited, as all’s well that ends well in this delightful Ars Minerva production of Domenico Freschi’s Ermelinda. Congratulations once again to Céline Ricci for continuing to bring to Bay Area audiences such a wonderful wealth of long-forgotten early Venetian operas. May she bring us many more.  




Rafael Davila Sings Des Grieux in the Final Performance of Puccini’s MANON LESCAUT

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday November 29, 2019 - 04:39:00 PM

On Tuesday, November 26, Puerto Rican tenor Rafael Davila made his San Francisco Opera debut singing for one night only the role of the Chevalier Des Grieux in Giacomo Puccini’s Manon Lescaut. In this season’s earlier performances of this opera, Des Grieux was sung by Brian Jagde. Singing the role of Manon in all six performances this season was Armenian soprano Lianna Haroutounian, hailed by many as the leading Puccini soprano of our time. My review of the opening night performance of this Manon Lescaut appeared in these pages on November 9. Always interested in discovering new singers, I returned to the War Memorial Opera House on November 26 to hear Rafael Davila make his local debut. He did not disappoint. 

Rafael Davila had already sung the role of Des Grieux in Spain at Opera de Valencia and at Barcelona’s famed Gran Teatro del Liceu. In 2017 Davila made an unexpected but critically acclaimed debut at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, stepping in to replace the ailing lead tenor in the role of Don José in Carmen. In his debut performance here as Des Grieux, Rafael Davila got off to an auspicious start owing to the fact that Puccini gave Des Grieux not one but two good arias to sing right away in Act I. The first, “tra voi, belle” is sung to the young women flirting with the young men at the coach station in Amiens. The second aria, “Donna non vidi mai similie a questa”/“Never did I see such a woman as this,” is sung in honor of the newly arrived Manon, who has barely stepped off her coach from Arras when she encounters the already enraptured young Chevalier Des Grieux, who has fallen in love with her at first sight. What I liked about Rafael Davila’s voice, initially, was its timbre, a true tenor timbre. (Unlike the baritonal timbre of Brian Jagde, who sang the first five performances of this season’s Manon Lescaut.) My only reservation about Davila’s singing in Act I was a hint of coarseness in the voice. Later, this disappeared. 

In my review of this season’s first performance of Manon Lescaut, I noted a slight tentativeness in Lianna Haroutounian’s early singing in Act I. At the time, I attributed it perhaps to first night nerves in a new role debut. However, on hearing Lianna Haroutounian a second time in this role, I realise that the tentativeness is not her responsibility, it is Puccini’s! The composer simply doesn’t give Manon any music in Act I she can really sink her teeth into. 

Even her first conversation with Des Grieux is all one-sided on his part. Manon is just an object Dea Grieux finds extraordinarily attractive, a woman onto whom he can project all his fantasies and desires about women. Indeed, in Oliver Tambosi’s staging of this production’s Act I, Manon and Des Grieux almost never look into each other’s eyes. Even when Des Grieux impulsively declares his love for Manon, he stands slightly behind her, staring off into space at the audience, while Manon, for her part, also sits staring into space at the audience. It’s as if this staging of Manon Lescaut wants to undercut the love-at-first-sight story right from the beginning, seeing it as a projection on the parts of both Des Grieux and Manon. Needless to say, that is a very cynical, Italianate view of the story recounted in the Abbé Prévost’s immensely popular 1731 French novel Manon Lescaut. Whereas the French celebrated this depiction of love-at-first-sight as the quintessence of young love , Puccini and his Italian librettists (at least five, maybe seven) seem to debunk it from the outset. What a pity! 

I also noted, in my November 9 review of this production’s first performance, my utter horror at Puccini’s decision to open Act II not in the happy but impoverished love nest of Des Grieux and Manon in Paris, but instead in the opulent Parisian manor house of the wealthy old roué Geronte, who has somehow, by means never made clear, sequestered Manon as his kept woman. Missing out, once again, on an occasion to celebrate young love, Puccini and his librettists (at least five and perhaps seven) just cynically place all the guilt on Manon for seeming to have preferred the luxury offered by Geronte to the impoverished true love she experienced with Des Grieux. 

Just how empty, however, is her new life with Geronte, is amply, perhaps all too amply, made clear at the beginning of Puccini’s Act II. First, there’s the acting out of a vapid madrigal composed by Geronte in honor of Manon. Then there’s a tedious dancing lesson in which Manon graciously performs a minuet with Geronte as her partner. I find this all a bit much. It’s as if Puccini and his Italian librettists can’t let go of their distorted view of this story, so they pile up scene after scene that undercuts everything, not only the young love of Des Grieux and Manon but also, a far easier target, the hypocritical relationship between Manon and the aging Geronte. 

When in Act II Des Grieux suddenly bursts unexpectedly into Manon’s bedroom in Geronte’s manor house, the music catches fire. In this performance, as in the opening night performance with Brian Jagde, suddenly everything becomes enflamed with passion. Manon declares her love for Des Grieux. At first, he hesitates. However, in thrall to her beauty, he melts and forgives Manon. They embrace passionately and sing a gorgeous duet. But Geronte arrives unexpectedly to catch the young lovers in their passionate embrace. He is furious. Manon goads him by holding up a mirror in front of him, then asking him to look at herself and Des Grieux in a loving embrace. Geronte seems to accept his fate; but this is only a dissembling on his part. He exits, vowing they will hear again from him, and soon. Sure enough, the forces of law and order soon arrive to arrest Manon as a loose woman. Now Geronte vindictively holds a mirror up to the incarcerated Manon. 

The rest of this story you know, at least if you’ve seen Puccini’s Manon Lescaut and perhaps read my November 8 review of this production’s first performance. Manon is transported to Le Havre, where she and other ‘fallen women’ await deportation to Louisiana. Des Grieux begs to be allowed on board to accompany Manon. He is taken aboard as cabin boy. Act IV is notoriously set in “a desert in Louisiana,” where an ailing and exhausted Manon and a desperate Des Grieux wander in a vain search for a safe haven or even a sign of life. With almost her dying breath, Manon sings the pathetically beautiful aria, “Sola, perduta, abbandonata,” gorgeously sung here by Lianna Haroutounian. Then Manon expires in the arms of Des Grieux. 

Let me say, in closing, that as Des Grieux Rafael Davila was even more impressive in Acts II, III, and IV than I found him to be in Act I. Let’s hope we hear him again soon in San Francisco. 

The Berkeley Activist's Calendar, Dec. 1-8

Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition
Sunday December 01, 2019 - 03:31:00 PM

Worth Noting:

Climate Solutions – Hosted by Student Environmental Resource Center at UCB -

So You Think You Know Climate Change?, Tue, Wed, Thur, 11 am - 2 pm at Sproul Plaza, https://www.facebook.com/events/578890266219225/

Deadline Decmber 8 – Petition - CA Air Resources Board, (CARB),

DIESEL TRUCKS – Expected CARB Proposal is too weak sign EarthJustice Petition


Deadline December 9 - Letter - CA Air Resources Board, (CARB),

SHIPS - Submit comments by letter or CARB form to CARB to cut pollution from Ships entering the Bay. CARB staff estimate the proposed regulation would remove nearly 400 tons of small particles from the air details and form link at http://www.sunflower-alliance.org/cut-pollution-from-ships-at-ports-refineries-december-5-9/

Council Agenda for December 10

Agenda follows the weekly list of meetings and rallies, City Council Winter Recess is December 11, 2019 – January 21, 2020

Sunday, December 1, 2019

350 Bay Area sponsored Action at Annual Auto Show, 1-3 pm, at Moscone Center in SF, FORD, BMW, HONDA and VW agreed to meet CA standards, GM, Fiat-Chrysler, Toyota, Nissan, Hyundai and Kia sided with Trump to oppose CA standards


Monday, December 2, 2019

City Council Public Safety Committee, 10:30 am, at Cypress Room – minutes only, no other agenda items


Tax the Rich Rally, Canceled Rain

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Berkeley City Council, 1231 Addison Street, BUSD Board Room,

  • Closed Session, 4 pm -6 pm, Anticipated Litigation, The CA Jazz Conseratory sewer backup, Pending Litigation Guzman,Richard vs. City of Berkeley
  • Regular Meeting, 6:00 pm – 11:00 pm, Agenda: December 3 Regular Council Meeting, CONSENT: 2. Standby Officers, 3. $210,000 Public Art contract with Michael Arcega for San Pablo Park Measure T1, 4. $2,871,500 Formal bid solicitations and RFP, 5. $357,000 contract thru June 30,2021 with Berkeley Food & Housing Project for Berkeley Mental Health Flexible Spending Programs and Russell St Residence, 6. $68,442 thru June 30, 2020 contract with Bay Area Hearing Voices Network for Hearing Voices Support Group, 7. $100,000 contract amendment with Youth Spirit Artworks for Transition Age Youth Case Management and Linkage Services, 8. $450,000 contract for FY2020 with Trip Stop Sidewalk Repair, Inc for Sidewalk inspection and shaving services, 9. Add $220,000 to contract total $270,000 with David L. Silva d.b.a. Silva Business Consulting for real property management services, 10. Reimbursement Agreement with Wareham for City’s share of traffic signal at San Pablo and Dwight, 11. $10,260 tax refund to Bay Area Community Trust for renovation of 1638 Stuart and operation of property as affordable housing. 13. Reaffirm support for Artic National Wildlife Refuge and refrain from conducting business with companies that purchase, lease or develop oil fields within the Refuge, 14. Reappoint Dr. P. Robert Beatty to Co. Mosquito Abatement, 15. Oppose Transportation and Handling of Coal and Petcoke in our community, 16. Ordinance requiring Legal Rights for Legal Tender (accept cash), 18. Urge CPUC to address its failure of oversight and to transform PG&E into Mutual Benefit Corporation, ACTION: 19. 2nd reading 2019 CA Fire Code with Local Amendments, 20. 2nd reading Berkeley Building Codes, 21. Milvia Bikeway Project Conceptual Design, 22. Surveillance Technology Report, 23. City Council Rules of Procedure and Order Revisions, 24. FY 2019 Year-End Results and FY 1st Quarter Update, 25. FY 2020 Annual Appropriations, 26. goBerkeley Residential Shared Parking Pilot Project Update, 27. a.&b. Allocation Measure P Funds, 28. Fund and Implement Safe Passages Program – parking restrictions to ensure Emergency Equipment Access to all parts of the City. 29. a.&b. Taxi Scripts to residents of Pathways/STAIR, 30. a.&b. 5-yr Paving Plan 31. Multi-year Bidding Process for Street Paving, INFORMATION REPORTS: 32. Condo Conversion Program, 33. Small Sites Update, 34. Equal Pay: Classification and Compensation Process City Employees.


Wednesday, December 4, 2019 

Board of Library Trustees, 6:30 pm at 1901 Russell St, Tarea Hall Pittman South Branch, Agenda: III.A. Contract $28,000 HR Consulting recruitment Library Director 


Disaster and Fire Safety Commission, 7 – 9 pm at 997 Cedar St, Fire Department Training Center, Agenda Discussion items: Wildfire Prevention Special Tax Assessment, 6. Power Shutoff, 7. Disaster Prep Fair Report, 8. Emergency Preparedness, 9. Underground Utilities Wires, 10. Expand Automatic Gas Shut-off, 11. Update Outdoor Alert System. 


Energy Commission, 6:30 – 9 pm at 1947 Center St, Multi-Purpose Room, Agenda: 4. Presentation T1, 5. Presentation BESO Evaluation 


Homeless Commission – Encampment Subcommittee, 5 pm at 2000 University, Au Coquelet https://www.cityofberkeley.info/Clerk/Commissions/Commissions__Homeless_Services_Panel_of_Experts.aspx 

Planning Commission, 7 – 10 pm at 2939 Ellis, South Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda: 9. Proposed Transportation Demand Management Program and Reduction of Parking Requirements, 10. 2740 and 2744 Telegraph for General Plan Re-designation and Zoning Map Amendment 


Thursday, December 5, 2019 

City Council Land Use, Housing & Economic Development Committee, 10:30 am, at 2180 Milvia, 1st Floor, Cypress Room, Agenda: 2. Inclusionary Units in Qualified Opportunity Zones, Unscheduled (future meeting) Proposed Retail (Chain Store) Regulations, 


City Council Facilities, Infrastructure, Transportation, Environment & Sustainability Committee, 2 pm, at 2180 Milvia, 6th Floor Redwood Room, Agenda: 2. Electric Moped Ride-Share Franchise Agreement, 3. Introduce Ordinance terminating sale of gasoline, diesel and natural gas passenger vehicles in Berkeley by 2025, 4. Referral to City Manager (CM) Establish New Dept Climate Emergency Mobilization Dept, 5. Ordinance to Regulate Plastic Bags at Retail and Food Service Establishments, 6.Establish GHG Emission Free as East Bay Community Energy (EBCE) Default, 7. Bright Streets Initiative (painting crosswalks and signage near school), Unscheduled (future meeting) Traffic Circles. 


Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board – Outreach Committee, 5 pm, at 2001 Center, 2nd Floor, Law Library, Agenda: 6. A. Tenant Survey 2020, b. Response to Disasters, c. AB 1482 Tenant Protection Act, d. Preventing Scams, e. Safety Checklist Compliance 


Landmarks Preservation Commission, 7 – 11:30 pm at 1947 Center St, Multipurpose Room, Basement, Agenda: DISCUSSION: A. Proposed Landscape Improvements Piedmont Ave, B. 1602 Oxford, C. 2650 Telegraph, D. 2000 Dwight Way, 6. A. 1399 Queens Road Landmark or Structure of Merit, B. 2211 Harold Way – Final Design Review, 


Friday, December 6, 2019 

No City meetings or events found 

Saturday, December 7, 2019 

Tots Winter Carnival Ages 2-5, 10 am – 12:30 pm, at Frances Albrier Community Center 


Winter Crafts Fair – Berkeley Farmer’s Market, 10 am – 3 pm, at Civic Center Park 


Sunday, December 8, 2019 

No City Events Found 




Email comments to council@cityofBerkeley.info,  

December 10 Regular Council Meeting, CONSENT: 2. Bid Solicitations/RFP $2,913,252, 3. 36-month contract $2,100,000 with option to extend 2 yrs, total $3,550,000 with First Alarm Security & Patrol, Inc. for Citywide Security Services, 4. 2020 Block Grant $266,863, 5. MOU with Alameda Co. $75,000 (revenue) for Winter Relief Program to provide homeless housing respite thru May 1, 2020, 6. Apply for Infill infrastructure Grant Funding, 7. Apply for State Funding No Place Like Home for Maudelle Miller Shirek Community at 2001 Ashby, 8. 2020 Health Plan Changes, 9. COBRA Administration $405,000, 10. Add $266,076 total $527,832 with ServiceNow, Inc to extend IT Software Licenses, 11. Waive Sanctuary City Ordinance (7,650-N.S.) for Berkeley Tuolumne Camp Reconstruction Contracts, 12. Increase Contract by $241,451 plus contingency $48,290, total $5,705,668 with Mar Con Builders, Inc for Live Oak Park Community Center Seismic Upgrade, 13. Add $2,900,000 total $7,200,000 with Siegel & Strain Architects for Tuolumne Camp Project, 14. Modification T1 Phase 1 Project List, 15. Make Telegraph Loading Zone and Parking Project permanent and establish similar loading zone and parking in all parking meter districts, 16. Purchase 9 Ford Super Duty F-Series Pick-up Trucks for $492,284 and $245,000 using Fleet Technology to convert to plug in hybrid vehicles when commercially available, 17. Add $54,560 total $106,616 (total for 2 contracts) for Server Storage with Edgeworth Integration, LLC, 18. Contract add $131,556 total $557,553, to extend term by 3 years to June 30, 2026 with ABM Industries for purchase additional EV charging stations and maintenance, 19. Contract $3,821,569 includes $347,415 contingency for Sanitary Sewer Rehab and Replacement with Pacific Trenchless, Inc., 20. Contract $2,246,219 includes $204,202 contingency for Sanitary Sewer Rehab and Replacement with Precision Engineering, Inc., 21. Contract $3,654,358 includes 10% contingency with Cratus, Inc, for Sanitary Sewer Rehab and replacement, 22. Add $100,000 total $300,000 and extend term to Dec 31, 2022, with Du-All Safety LLC for Safety Consulting and Training Services, 23.Contract add $500,000 total $5,386,293 with B Bros Construction to complete 2640 MLK Jr Way Adult Mental Health Services Center renovation and seismic upgrade, 24. Measure O Bond funding reservations $36,002,64026. 25.Support for Non-Violent Activists and Protections of Animals in Commercial Operations, 27. Feb 2020 Black History Month discretionary funds, ACTION: 28. Local Hazard Mitigation Plan, 29. RPP (residential parking) 1500 Block of Lincoln, 30. Amend ADU ordinance to comply with new State Law and establish interim limits on development, 31. MOU between City of Berkeley and BART on implementation AB 2923 at Ashby and North Berkeley BART, Establish a Community Advisory Group (CAG) to provide inut to Planning Commission on zoning, the City and BART, 




Public Hearings Scheduled – Land Use Appeals 

0 Euclid – Berryman Reservoir TBD 

2422 Fifth St - TBD 

Remanded to ZAB or LPC With 90-Day Deadline 

1155-73 Hearst (develop 2 parcels) – referred back to City Council – to be scheduled 

Notice of Decision (NOD) With End of Appeal Period 


999 Anthony 12-19-2019 

1119 Arch 12-02-2019 

1634 California 12-9-2019 

3015 Dohr 12-5-2019 

1449 Grizzly Peak 12-11-2019 

2234 Haste 12-3-2019 

790 Hilldale 12-17-19 

2026 Los Angeles 12-02-2019 

2965 Magnolia 12-9-2019 

2693 Shasta 12-16-19 


3020 College Ave (ZAB) 12-2-2019 

2431 Fifth St (ZAB) 12-2-2019 

2348 Hilgard (ZAB) 12-3-2019 

1312 Josephine (ZAB) 12-3-2019 

1581 Le Roy #LMSAP2019-0004 (LPO) (ZAB) 12-3-2019 

2234 Haste #LMSAP@)!^-0002 (LPO) 






Jan 14 – Vision 2050, Civic Center Visioning, Systems Realignment 

Feb 4 – Discussion of Community Poll (Ballot Measures), Adeline Corridor Plan 

March 17 – CIP Update (PRW and Public Works), Measure T1 Update 

May 5 – Budget Update, Crime Report 

June 23 – Climate Action Plan/Resiliency Update, Digital Strategic Plan FUND$/Replacement Website Update 

July 21 – no workshops scheduled “yet” 


Unscheduled Workshops/Presentations 

Cannabis Health Considerations 

Update goBerkeley (RPP) 

BMASP/Berkeley Pier-WETA Ferry (November 2020) 



To Check For Regional Meetings with Berkeley Council Appointees go to 



To check for Berkeley Unified School District Board Meetings go to 





This meeting list is also posted on the Sustainable Berkeley Coalition website. 

http://www.sustainableberkeleycoalition.com/whats-ahead.html and in the Berkeley Daily Planet under activist’s calendar http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com 


When notices of meetings are found that are posted after Friday 5:00 pm they are added to the website schedule https://www.sustainableberkeleycoalition.com/whats-ahead.html and preceded by LATE ENTRY